East semifinals


East semifinals

No. 1 Oklahoma (26-6) vs. No. 12 Butler (27-5)

Site: Pepsi Arena, Albany, N. Y.

Time: 7:10 tonight

Conference records: Oklahoma went 12-4 to finish third in the Big 12, but won the tournament title for the third year in a row. Butler went 14-2 to win the Horizon League's regular season title, but needed an at-large bid to reach the NCAA tourney when it lost in the conference tournament final.

Coaches: Kelvin Sampson is 213-80 in nine seasons at Oklahoma and 389-228 in 20 seasons overall. Todd Lickliter is 53-11 in two seasons at Butler.

Oklahoma's lineup: G Hollis Price (18.5 ppg, .448 3-FG), G Quannas White (9.0 ppg, 4.1 apg), G De'Angelo Alexander (7.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg), F Kevin Bookout (9.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg), F Johnnie Gilbert (3.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg).

Butler's lineup: G Brandon Miller (12.1 ppg, 3.4 apg), G Darnell Archey (10.8 ppg, .433 3-FG), F Mike Monserez (9.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg), F Lewis Curry (4.6 ppg), C Joel Cornette (11.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg).

Bench strength: Senior G Ebi Ere struggled much of the year with his shooting and has a broken bone in his left, non-shooting wrist, but the Sooners need him as a third scoring threat. Jabahri Brown, at 6-10, can be a force inside. Butler F Duane Lightfoot, Jr., is strong on the offensive boards and has a .657 FG percentage. G Avery Sheets is a clutch shooter with good range.

Key matchup: The backcourt matchup of Price and White vs. Miller and Archey should be crucial. It's uncertain whether Butler's tandem will be able to get good shots against Oklahoma. But Price's groin injury could negate the Sooners' apparent advantage there.

What Oklahoma needs to do to win: Limit the Bulldogs to one shot, harass them at the arc and stay away from prolonged scoring droughts. The Sooners also need Price to score more than the eight points he had in last week's games.

What Butler needs to do to win: Hit its three-point shots to keep the pressure on Oklahoma. If the Bulldogs can stay in the game deep into the second half, they have a chance because the Sooners struggle closing out games.

Bottom line: If Price is able to play significant minutes, the Sooners' physical defense should cause enough problems for Butler to allow Oklahoma to advance to the regional final. But it probably won't be the comfortable ride most people think.

No. 3 Syracuse (26-5) vs. No. 10 Auburn (23-11)

Site: Pepsi Arena, Albany, N. Y.

Time: 9:40 tonight (approximate)

Conference records: Syracuse went 13-3 in the Big East and lost in the tournament semifinals. Auburn went 8-8 in the Southeastern Conference and lost in the tournament semifinals.

Coaches: Jim Boeheim is 649-226 in 27 seasons at Syracuse. Cliff Ellis is 172-110 in nine seasons at Auburn, and 520-322 in 28 seasons overall.

Syracuse's lineup: G Gerry McNamara (13.3 ppg, 4.6 apg), G Kueth Duany (11.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg), F Carmelo Anthony (22.2 ppg, 9.9 rpg), F Hakim Warrick (15.0 ppg, 8.9 rpg), C Craig Forth (3.9 ppg, 3.4 rpg).

Auburn's lineup: G Derrick Bird (9.7 ppg, 2.9 rpg), G Lewis Monroe (6.0 ppg, 3.4 apg), F Marquis Daniels (18.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg), F Marco Killingsworth (13.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg), C Kyle Davis (5.9 rpg, 3.7 bpg).

Bench strength: G Billy Edelin leads Syracuse in scoring in the tournament with a 17.5 average off the bench, and 6-8 Jeremy McNeil is an intimidator inside (eight blocks vs. UConn in a Big East semifinal). Auburn counters with 6-8 F Brandon Robinson, averaging 8.2 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, and G Nathan Watson.

Key matchup: Bird hounded ACC Player of the Year Josh Howard into a loss last week and has gained notoriety as a defensive stopper. He'll have his hands full against Anthony tonight, even though the former Towson Catholic star didn't have a big first weekend.

What Syracuse needs to do to win: Avoid falling into another big deficit like last week and get Anthony back to his dominating level of play.

What Auburn needs to do to win: Withstand the emotion generated by a pro-Syracuse crowd early and create good shots against the Orangemen's 2-3 zone.

Bottom line: Playing so close to home has to pay off for Syracuse.

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